Apache Junction city leaders have taken the first steps toward a policy that would regulate the disposal of firearms confiscated by police.
The City Council will ask city staff next month to come up with a set of guidelines for the destruction of police property.
The topic came up at a study session Monday, nearly a month after Police Chief Glenn Walp destroyed a cache of guns. Walp did so without alerting city leaders, the public or the local magistrate.
R.E. Eck, vice mayor, said Walp’s unilateral decision to destroy the guns and the resulting news media coverage highlighted the need to develop city guidelines.
“I don’t think the chief should be taking the brunt of all this,” he said. “The chief didn’t do anything wrong. What he did was brought it to our attention that we needed a policy.”
The police department had amassed a stockpile of weapons going back to the 1980s, yet had no policy to regulate their disposal. Some cities auction their confiscated firearms, and others destroy them.
Last month, Walp cleared out more than 1,200 firearms from the police evidence locker and had the stockpiled weapons smelted.
Initially, some city officials and a former police evidence custodian were concerned he did so without alerting the City Council.
Karen Gwaltney, a former evidence custodian, said earlier this month Walp might have destroyed evidence vital to ongoing cases.
Walp’s actions also conflicted with a set of best practices laid out by the International Association of Property Evidence, which offers police agencies training related to the handling and disposal of law enforcement property and evidence.
“A firearm destruction list should be compiled, and a court order signed by a magistrate should be obtained to limit liability,” the group states on its Web site.
But City Attorney Joel Stern said earlier this month Walp’s decision to dispose of the firearms didn’t violate city policy because Apache Junction didn’t have any established guidelines.
City officials and residents have said the guns might also have been sold at auction to raise money for the city. Police departments of other East Valley cities routinely auction off batches of confiscated guns.
Jeff Serdy, owner of AJI Sporting Goods in Apache Junction, appraised the value of the 1,261 smelted firearms at $157,000, which he called a conservative estimate.
Councilman Joseph Severs said city staff should look to the Mesa Police Department’s policy, which calls for confiscated firearms to be auctioned for the city’s benefit.
“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel here,” he said.
Councilman Dave Waldron, however, called for a broader survey of departmental policies.
“We need to look at all of them, not just Mesa,” he said.